World Heart Day celebrated on 28th September, 2008 this Sunday brought in some really bad news for Indians, particularly Indian women. It appears that the country is clearly far behind in terms of prevention of heart problems. According to the World Health Organisation, India will see nearly a 100% increase in heart diseases by 2015.
This year, the theme for World Heart Day is ‘Know Your Risk’. Supported by World Health Federation internationally, World Heart Day discovered that Indian women in particular are more susceptible to coronary ailments mainly because their arteries are narrower than men. “Be active. Thirty minutes of brisk activity and five servings of vegetables and fruits every day can keep the doctor away” is this year’s prescription by the World Heart Federation.
Madhukar Shahi, senior interventional cardiologist of Gurgaon-based Artemis Health Institute, remarked on World Heart Day, “Since arteries in women are narrower in India, risk factors have a bigger impact. Coronary and heart diseases need to be more aggressively managed in women than men.”
He further added, “Many women use cigarette as an aid to control their weight because being thin is fashionable. But smoking reduces the HDL cholesterol which increases the risk of heart diseases. What makes treatment difficult for women is that surgical interventions like stenting to clear blockages in arteries is more complex as they have narrower arteries”
According to Dr Shahi, some of the major causes of coronary diseases among Indian women are diabetes, high cholesterol level or dyslipidemia, smoking, bad metabolism and premature menopause or estrogen deficiency. He mentions that heart problems are primarily a lifestyle disease.
Experts reveal that the mortality rate among women suffering from cardiovascular diseases is also higher than that of men across the world, including India. They cite lifestyle changes in metropolitan cities where women work graveyard shifts and give in to smoking and drinking due to peer and professional pressure as the main reason. The risk of heart diseases are further increased by negative lifestyles associated with depression, smoking, alcoholism, lack of exercise, poor diet and lack of social support. These entire factors researchers claim interfere with treatment.
In India, smoking is linked to lowered median survival of 8 years in women as against 6 years to men in the country. An earlier study conducted by the New England Journal in May 2008 supports the vulnerability of women. The researchers revealed that among the 30,000 deceased women who smoked, a majority of them died or suffered from heart and lung-related respiratory, vascular or neo-plastic diseases. Additionally the number of women between the ages of 30 and 69 years who smoke in India has risen from 3% to 6% over the years.
To add to the country’s health woes, experts further add that the number of coronary diseases in women had increased by 300 percent in the last five years. Shahi asserts that Indian women irrespective of whether they were working or not should take some precautionary measures. They involve getting a test for blood sugar, lipid profiles, pressure, bio-index mass and weight and attending counselling sessions for exercise and smoking at regular intervals.
World Heart Day urges people to adopt healthy lifestyles and go for periodic health checks. This year it is supported globally by Olympic marathon gold medal winner Stefano Baldini.